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Unlocking data and digital skills divide in Smart Cities – A challenge worth solving

By Pierre Baviera,  CEO at Derilinx

Unlocking data and digital skills divide in Smart Cities – A challenge worth solving for cities to progress on the way to sustainable economic recovery

As a member of the Derilinx’s team, I am lucky enough (and grateful!) to constantly interact with Smart City Leaders on data and sustainable development related topics.

The COVID-19 pandemic turned the life of cities upside down with drastic changes in citizens’ consumer behaviours, public service delivery and relationship with the workplace. Most would agree that these changes are here to last. Climate Change - Corona

Climate change resilience has been a key focus area for the most mature Smart Cities and will become the key priority for most Smart Cities around the Globe.

In that context, sustainable recovery is amongst top priorities across a range of topics including sustainable finances (and sustainability of finances!), energy, mobility, tourism etc.

Data and digital skills are important enablers but there are a number of challenges on the way. First, citizen centric service delivery should remain the guiding principle of any transformation so that change can last and deliver impact. It is critical to put the right processes in place so that participation and inclusion are preserved. No one should be left behind. That leads to the second issue linked to the digital skills gap (digital literacy) both on service delivery and consumers/citizens sides. That poses a real threat to inclusion and that jeopardises innovation.

Data sharing and open data represent a fantastic catalyst that plays a significant role in addressing these issues. There are many sources of data across the city (dark data refers to available within organisations but “unknown” and therefore un-used by organisations), in multiple formats, across multiple sustainable topics from a wide range of potential providers (both public services and private sector). Bringing this data together would not only drive informed decision making but it would also help identify hidden problems and create a fertile ground for innovation that is centred on true citizens’ needs.

We are truly still at the beginning of the data journey.

How to bring public, private, research and NGOs communities together so that this data is unearthed and shared?

A multifaceted approach could include:

  1. Set “Zero In” on Net Zero targets and use these targets as a lever to collect the required data to both measure outcomes as well as progress linked to Climate Change Resilience Action Plans.
  2. Put in place harmonised, interoperable and systematic data collection and publication processes across specific themes and organisations (starting with the Public Sector) to enable linked and shared data.
  3. Promote data sharing, its necessity and its benefits, systematically and in a structured manner over time.
    It may even be necessary to adopt a more forceful approach linked to the adoption of international Directive such as the EU Open Data and PSI Re-Use Directive (that came to play for all EU countries in 2021) to go beyond stimulation policies that have had a somewhat limited impact to date

ecosystem management

Education and structured, proactive and sustained over time ecosystem management is required to successfully bring together data publishers and consumers.

 

There is definitely no silver bullet to those challenges but they are worth solving and we’re committed to do so!

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